John 18:33 – 19:16
Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Happy New Year – to the Church!
Yes, I know it’s late November. Of course, I realize we are only just about to observe Thanksgiving and haven’t even celebrated Christmas yet. So then, what gives?
We are at one of those places in the year where the Church calendar and secular calendars diverge significantly. The Church calendar, sometimes referred to as the liturgical calendar is an alternative way to order the time we have been given each year. In fact, this centuries-old way of marking each cycle of 365 days, used to be THE way much of the Western world marked time. The Church calendar orients itself, not on the positions of the sun and moon, nor on the start and end of school, but instead on key aspects of the life of Christ that are coordinated with the solar calendar.
According to the Church calendar, the Sunday before the start of the Advent season, the Church’s preparation for Christmas, is last day of the Christian year. In other words, while the outside world is still basking in Thanksgiving leftovers and ramping up the Christmas music, decorations, and sales, it will be New Year’s Eve this Sunday for us at Grace. In some traditions of the Church, this last Sunday of the Christian year has a name: Christ the King Sunday.
This naming and theming of this particular Sunday is a relatively new designation, taking place in the early twentieth century. Instituted by Pope Pius XI of the Catholic Church in 1925, Christ the King Sunday was established in response to the rising power of dictatorships in Europe. Throughout the world, Jesus was being “excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man.” Arguably, this is a disturbing trend that once again appears to be on the rise in our time.
As a counter to this rising trend, Christ the King Sunday was designed to proclaim Jesus as “the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the center of humankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfillment of all aspirations.” This observance created by the Catholic Church as part of their annual rhythm quickly became adopted with several other strands of the Christian faith, including Lutherans.
The phrase “Jesus is Lord,” which properly understood equates to “Jesus is King,” is one of the most ancient and basic declarations of the faith. But what exactly does it mean to say that Jesus is king or lord? Christ as King can be a difficult theme for us to reflect on because the very idea of kingship is alien or archaic to us in a representative democracy.
Join us this weekend as instead of beginning to count down and wait for the dropping of a giant crystal ball in Times Square, we will be looking up as we start to anticipate the One who comes down to us to make all things new. Before the holiday blitz begins, we best remember who exactly it is we are expecting and why. In so doing, maybe instead of being overwhelmed by all the rush, we will carve out the space to hush – to rest in the awe and wonder of the Word made flesh, of the King of Kings who comes to sit not on a throne but to hang from the Cross in order to set us free.
May the Lord bless you as you join with those you love and reach out to those who need a little love as you gather around the table of Thanksgiving!
Grace to you!